Coun. Terry O'Neill's plan to improve voter turnout was flatly rejected at Monday's council meeting in Coquitlam.
Introduced in July, O'Neill's motion sought to publicize the names of those who vote in a civic election, a move he hoped would improve "abysmally low" voter turnout in recent years.
But the key stumbling block among his council colleagues was the issue of privacy, and the motion was defeated 8-1. O'Neill was the lone councillor to vote in favour of the motion.
"No idea is perfect," he said. "But I think this is a good idea and it's a good start."
O'Neill got the idea after reading an Atlantic magazine article entitled, "The Ideas Report."
The report cited a U.S. study that suggests "people are more likely to follow social norms when their behaviour is observed by others" - in other words, if their names are published, they are more likely to vote.
Under current provincial legislation, municipalities are mandated to produce voter lists for eight weeks after an election, a point O'Neill used to counter claims his motion would undermine privacy concerns.
He also argued publishing the names of those who vote in local newspapers would instill a sense of pride, while also exerting pressure on those who choose not to vote.
Coun. Selina Robinson, however, said that tactic encouraged a form of public shaming rather than public engagement.
"The pressure is to avoid humiliation, not to get acknowledgement," she said. "The avoidance of humiliation is the stick, and I'd rather use a carrot."
The city's voter turnout rate has traditionally hovered below the 25-per-cent mark over the last decade.
Last year's turnout for the civic election was pegged at 21.7 per cent, while the 2008 and 2005 numbers were 21.5 and 23.3 per cent, respectively.
The byelection numbers are even worse - in 2010, only 7.6 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, and only 5.1 per cent did so in 2007.
"For so many of us, who have had that right to vote for all of our lives, to be complacent about it is wrong," said Mayor Richard Stewart. "We have work to do." twitter.com/johnkurucz